Crete, Santorini, and Naxos look quite doable within the 12-day block, but Crete’s beaches are scattered throughout a very LARGE island, Santorini really only has Kamari and Perissá (and some southern coast bays) and Naxos does have nice places to swim. If you choose only to visit those three islands in your relatively short time, you will do well.
Despite Zlarin’s small size and relative obscurity, it is certainly an island with dazzling beauty. It is known locally as the ‘Golden Island,’ because it’s really that eye-wateringly gorgeous! This small island is just off the mainland, separated by the Sibenik Channel and is mostly famous for its history of coral harvesting; there is even a Coral Museum where you can learn more about it.
Naturally, there are some amazing coral reefs for snorkeling and diving and pristine beaches (my favorite is Whitehaven Beach). Upon arrival, you’ll instantly see why this is one of the best tropical islands in the world — and why over half a million people visit a year. One of the most popular way to see the islands is via a multi-day sailing tour (which is what I did when I visited). It was an amazing experience — especially diving! Prices start around 450 AUD for multi-day sailing tours.
Casting Penélope Cruz as a Greek peasant is improbable. Shooting a World War II film on an island flattened by an earthquake in 1953 sounds even crazier. And yet Captain Corelli's Mandolin put under-the-radar Kefalonia (Cephalonia) in the spotlight in 2001. The dramatic scenery still lives up to the hype: milky-white Myrtos beach, the island's pin-up; pine-fringed Horgota beach; and the giddying heights of Mount Ainos, a national park where deer and wild horses roam. Outdoor Kefalonia organises four-wheel-drive safaris, if you can't face the hairpin bends. Surprisingly, the two prettiest seaside villages - Assos and Fiskardo - didn't make the cut. But the yachting set has discovered their photogenic charm. Everyone from John Galliano to Jon Bon Jovi has jumped ashore to taste the seafood pasta at Tassia in Fiskardo, washed down with local Robola and Muscat wines. (We recommend the organic muscat from the 19th century Haritatos Estate in Lixouri, also an enchanting setting for wine tasting.) The rocky coastline around Fiskardo is deliciously pristine: go snorkelling at tiny Dafnoudi or Emblissi, flanked by slabs of limestone that turn the water electric blue.
Sports and Recreation: There are many sport and recreation activities, including running in the woods, walking along the bays, and team sports such as volleyball, basketball, soccer or handball on Sotorišce beach. Additionally, visit the complex Mirta to try out table tennis or rent a small boat. For the more adventurous type, Silba is a great place for windsurfing.
Zakynthos is an island of certain extremes: beauty and crass, mass tourism of the worst sort. The islands – like all the Ionian islands is lush and verdant and boasts the now famous ‘shipwreck beach’ (Navagio) that many seek to travel to and swim at. Yes, it’s worth it and numerous excursion boats make the run from ports on the west side of the island. Environmentalists and capitalists clash daggers at Laganas where the mass tourism trade is carried out to the detriment of the Caretta Caretta, or loggerhead turtle that loves the beach as much as British tourists on a binge. Read this page for the background. There is an alternative scene to Laganas at Vasilikos over to the east, but it is much more low-key and less busy.
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Excellent choice of islands, though getting between them presents one or two challenges (they are not as conveniently connected like the Cycladic or Dodecanese islands so island hopping is not as popular in this island group). All three islands are served by airports with year-round connections to Athens and in the Summer with international charter flights from Europe. Let’s take the pros and cons of each island.
The Greek islands have beautiful weather in the months just before and after peak season. It’s a great time to see the islands, save money, avoid the crowds, and still have great weather (though not as hot as July and August). If you want to see the super-popular islands of Santorini, Rhodes, Corfu, and Crete without the tourists then this is a great time to visit.